Thousands of revelers took to the streets of downtown Frederiksted on Wednesday for the annual j’ouvert tramp. The music was pulsing. The festive mood was infectious. St. Croix residents joined elected officials to shed their reservations and enjoy the one day of the year where they could dance in the streets without restrictions or inhibitions.
With more than seven j’ouvert troupes, including live bands and DJs, the overall opinion of the participants was that this year’s celebration was the best in a long time.
The obvious change to j’ouvert in Frederiksted this year was the addition of the troupes –privately sponsored groups that offer participants an "enhanced" j’ouvert experience. For a fee one received a branded T-shirt, maybe a back pack, cups or a festive mask, unlimited drinks, food and other j’ouvert staples such as mud, paint or powder to throw in the air and on each other as you fete.
Two of these troupes, Festival Fete Chasers and Splash, were given a special permit from the V.I. Police Department to begin their partying at 4 a.m. There was an estimated 2,000 people in these troupes alone.
The groups started their partying from the north side of Frederiksted town and made their way up King Street to Fisher Street near the post office where the participants danced with abandon in the streets. Many people who were not officially part of the troupes joined in, forming one huge frenzied dance party. The two trucks blaring music seemed to be making the very street pulsate with the rhythm of the bass.
As the crowd swelled in town, several more trucks carrying live bands and DJs were preparing to push off from Hannah’s Rest corner about two miles away as soon as the sun peeked over the horizon. Local favorites XPress Band, Vio International, Kylo and the Stylee Band, Nikki Brooks and Fusion Band were part of the lineup with Triple K and Asa Banton from Dominica bringing up the rear of the j’ouvert. Thousands more revelers joined gyrating hordes behind their favorite band winding their way down the road.
Many of the dancers seemed to have an obsession with taking selfies, snapchatting and going on Facebook live while dancing in the j’ouvert, sharing the experience to the global internet community. They danced solo, in groups and came together in large bunches just to break away and do it all over again.
Arthur Joseph, VIPD event coordinator, said the j’ouvert was incident-free. Joseph was in charge of coordinating the Festival Fete Chasers and the Splash troupes. He said the plan was for the bands from Hannah’s Rest to meet the troupes at Fisher Street and for all the groups and bands to go down King Street together, but as they saw the participants grow to such a large number, for safety sake, he directed the troupes to move ahead of the second section.
Later at the opening ceremonies of the Food Arts and Crafts Fair, both Gov. Kenneth Mapp and Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter congratulated members of the Police Department for a well-executed plan where there were no acts of violence.